Checkin' out the Big Apple: Part 1
How my farm-girl roots got me to Fashion Ave.
Here's the first part of my adventure, summarizing my time at Calvin Klein, IZOD, and Nicole Miller!
No matter where I go, no matter who I meet, it always comes back to farming.
One day shortly after mom and I had moved into Oakview (a 1920's schoolhouse we renovated), a woman sporting polka dotted muck boots showed up on our doorstep.
"I am here to inspect this house." She declared.
And inspect she did. It turned out that Michele, wearer of the awesome muck boots, was our neighbor, and owned the dairy right down the road from us. Though she's lived on the dairy much of her life, Michele also runs her own PR business. She knows how to dig a ditch, but has also traveled the world. We became fast friends and it was so fun getting to meet someone who shares my love of agriculture, but also of fashion and travel.
One day when Michele was over for ice cream, she started telling me about some of the people she knows in the fashion industry on the East Coast. Besides her own plethora of sources, she has a farm-girl friend who has all kinds of connections.
We started talking about how cool it would be for me to meet some of those people someday.
"Whacha doing the last week of September?" Michele asked.
I just grinned and licked my bowl clean, and a few week later, mom and I were on an East-bound plane.
(Don't worry, Michele wasn't going to miss out on any fun though. We flew in on Sunday night and she met us at our hotel in Manhattan the next night.)
On Sunday we stayed with some friends in Brooklyn. They fed us a huge Sunday supper when we got there that was absolutely heavenly after a long flight. They have four amazing kids, ages three, five, nine, and 11.
After we dropped the kids at school in the morning, Antonio and Susan took us out to breakfast at my favorite-ever cafe, Pegasus, where they serve the best pancakes in the whole world!
Then mom and I rode the subway up to Manhattan to meet Michele at our hotel. We got to wander around some fun fabric stores including Mood,where I bought six yards of fabulous cashmere.
On Monday night, my dad's brother Walt rode the train up from his home in Alexandria to take us out for dinner at Villa Mosconi, an enchanting Italian place in the heart of Greenwich Village. We all ordered something different and shared, continuing Uncle Walt's and my tradition of always ordering artichoke when we are together.
After one of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten, we strolled about the village, taking a moment to pop into a vintage shop featuring mostly 60's and 70's treasures. It was a perfect evening.
The next morning it was time to get to down to business. The first appointment on the list for the week was Becky Vogel, SVP Wholesale Planning & Global Merchandising at Calvin Klein. She grew up in a small farming community with Michele's friend Carey, and was happy to help a fellow small town farm-girl.
By 9:15 a.m., I was standing on Fashion Ave, about to enter the Calvin Klein headquarters. We stepped off the elevator into a white room with a glass display case in the center, featuring some mannequins representing the latest product line.
After showing me around a bit and explaining about the company, Becky handed me off to some women on the design team for their underwear line. Everything was white. That is, until a young woman led me into the design room. A sleek table featuring everything from swatches, to magazine pages, to cosmetics, stretched along the east wall in a gradient of brilliant color.
"This is my job." She said, using both hands to gesture at the table.
Apparently, this girl makes her living off of color. She goes out and finds inspiration, and works with the merchandising team putting palettes together for the upcoming season. In underwear, everything a company is working on is still two years out.
From there, the merchandising team works with the designers, insuring that the designs will sell. The north wall was all brightly colored data pinned to white cork-boards. Then there's the west wall where designers pin up prototypes from the collection as it progresses. Finally, there's the south wall, which is covered entirely of images that really tell the story of the collection at hand. It was incredible!
After that I got to meet some people in the merchendising side of the company. They sat me down and took me through the whole process from collaborating with the designers to following what is selling to getting the product in the stores to please a global market. It was extremely fascinating.
Later Becky took me across the street to meet the creative Director at IZOD, where he gave me a similar tour, showing me all the elements that go into creating/selling a "simple shirt."
After that, I met back up with Mom and Michele and we grabbed some lunch and wandered around Times Square a bit until it was time to head for the next appointment on the list: Nicole Miller.
The Nicole Miller visit worked out because Carey's husband, Brian, was in a TV commercial for CHOBANI yogurt with Nicole Miller's sister, who makes granola. (Always agriculture, remember?!)
We walked in the door to an entirely different vibe than Calvin Klein. The decor was still very chic, but there was color everywhere. Mom, Michele and I sat in an open waiting room, flipping through Albums of the stars Nicole has dressed: Carrie Underwood, Beyonce, and Martina McBride to name a few. I had to ask Michele to pinch me. Mom and Michele took off in search of coffee while one of Nicole's designers, Alicia Abbas, gave me a tour of the Nicole Miller headquarters.
It was different than the other two places I'd seen. All the garment samples are created in-house, so I got to see professional pattern-drafters, cutters, and seamstresses in action. The whole place had a much more artistic feel to it. It wasn't as linear as the Calvin Klien/Izod companies, and I liked that.
There's even a big kitchen where one of the employees makes lunch for everyone once a week As cooking is another huge love of mine, I was enchanted!
As we were nearing the design room, Alicia asked, "Hey, do you want to meet Nicole?"
I almost fell over. Nicole Miller had been presenting at Paris Fashion Week days before, and here I was in New York City actually about to meet the woman? Incredible!
She came into the room a few minutes later, and I got to talk to her about where she went to school and share my portfolio with her.
"If you need a letter of recommendation for college, just let me know," she said.
I almost fainted.
Alicia showed me around the design studio a bit more until Mom and Michele showed back up. Nicole Miller was so excited to meet Michele because Michele actually knew the Ronnybrook Farms-family.
"Their yogurt is all that I buy!"
And there we were, on the 20th floor of a high-rise on Fashion Ave., talking about a dairy. Because, that's how it works right?
That night we had dinner with Michele's friend Peter (son of a dairyman) at a fabulous place in the meatpacking district called "The Park," (so named because it had been a parking garage for taxies in its previous life) It was such a perfect way to end such a magical day.
The trip was going so much better than I ever could have dreamed! Stay tuned for the next half of my grand New York City Adventure!
I just want to give a HUGE thank you to Michele and Carey for making this happen! Thank you Susan and Antonio too for putting us up and feeding us one of the best meals ever! I also want to thank Becky Vogel, Alicia Abbas and Nicole Miller for being so helpful and encouraging! :)